2.05 DONCASTER OLBG.COM MARES´ HURDLE
(Registered as Doncaster Mares´ Hurdle)
(Grade 2)(CLASS 1) (4yo+) (2m 140y)
There are some quality races scheduled for this Saturday at Cheltenham and Doncaster and there will be lots of festival clues to be found, especially with the ground drying out. The OLBG mares hurdle at Doncaster is a fascinating little contest and almost all of the field can have a case made for them.
Only 2 favourites have won since 2008 and the last jolly to oblige was Annie Power a couple of years ago. Intense Tango is back to defend her crown but she has plenty of challengers from both sides of the Irish Sea and it promises to be an exciting race. If you are having a bet you should have a look at our preview below and discover who we think will come out on top.
INTENSE TANGO K BURKE/B HUGHES
This tough little 5yo daughter of Intense Focus has been admirably consistent for connections, hitting the frame on 11 of her 21 starts. She has won on the flat off a mark of 72, but her game is hurdling and she has been kept ticking over on the all-weather over the winter waiting for better ground. She was beaten only a head on her penultimate run off 87 on the all-weather at Lingfield at the turn of the year, and she ran respectably again there last time in a class 3 conditions race.
Her well-being is not in question judging by those runs and fitness will not be an issue. She bombed out on her last hurdles run behind Identity Thief, but the ground was soft at Newcastle that day, and she needs it good to soft or better to be seen at her best. It is looking like those will be the ground conditions at Doncaster on Saturday with the wind drying it out. She has to carry a lot more weight this year admittedly, but she looks sure to be primed to run a big race and put up a strong defence of her crown at the generous looking odds of 7/1.
MORNING RUN W MULLINS/P TOWNEND
Undoubtedly talented 7yo daughter of King’s Theatre who is 6 from 7 under rules, including a brace of grade 3s at Down Royal (16f) and Fairyhouse (18f) on yielding and heavy ground respectively. Suffered the first defeat of her career on her seasonal reappearance in another grade 3 at Leopardstown (20f) on heavy ground when she finished a well beaten 3rd behind Keppols Queen (11L behind Rock On The Moor in 2nd).
However, it would be dangerous to dismiss this mare on the back of one poor run, and she is undeniably a better horse than she showed that day. She could have been short of fitness and the 20f trip may well also have stretched her. She drops back down to 16f for this race and back on better ground she will make a bold bid from the front. She could be hard to reel back in if she is given too much rope and she is a serious contender at odds of 6/4.
SMART TALK B ELLISON/P BRENNAN
This 6yo daughter of Hubbly Bubbly has made the frame in every one of her runs under rules. She has had 6 career starts and has won 3 of those by wide margins, including when stepped up in class at Haydock last time (19f heavy) when she hacked up by 8L in a listed heat. Her 2 novice hurdle wins came on good to soft ground at Worcester (16f) and Sedgefield (20f) so she is versatile regarding trip and ground.
This is another big step up in class for the Ellison mare though, and she looks likely to face stern competition for the lead from the Mullins horse. She is currently priced up at 15/2 and after her impressive win last time she is sure to have her supporters. She is not discounted and it would be no surprise to see a big run from this versatile mare.
ROCK ON THE MOOR J HARRINGTON/R POWER
This 8yo daughter of Flemensfirth is a mare I have been keeping an eye on ever since she won her bumper back in 2014. I was at Leopardstown the day she won her maiden (18f soft) and she really caught my eye in the parade ring. She is beautifully bred and is a half-sister to none other than the very useful Get Me Out Of Here, the perennial Cheltenham bridesmaid.
She is very lightly raced for her age and has only had 9 runs, winning 3 of those and hitting the frame on 2 other occasions. She was well beaten in grade 1 company behind Annie Power on her final run last season, but she showed it was too early to write her off with an excellent effort behind Keppols Queen (Morning Run well behind) in a grade 3 at Leopardstown last month (20f heavy). She has shown her best form on yielding ground so conditions will be to her liking tomorrow and if she strips fitter for her last run she will be there or thereabouts at odds of 9/2.
DONNAS PRIDE K REVELEY/J REVELEY
This 7yo daughter of Beat All has won only once from 14 starts and has been well beaten in 3 handicaps since returning to action this season. Her last run here over 19.5f (soft) at the start off this month saw her trail in 3rd of 5 off a mark of 109 and on all known form it is very difficult to see her troubling the principals here. Her trainer had a nice winner at the track on Friday, but it is hard to see him repeating the trick in this race and she is readily overlooked at odds of 33/1.
LILY WAUGH AJ HONEYBALL/D NOONAN
This 9yo daughter of King’s Theatre has been a revelation this season and will be looking to complete a 4 timer in this race. She has struck up a good partnership with crack claimer David Noonan and he is unbeaten on this tough mare, though he won’t be able to claim his 5lbs here. She has had 22 starts, winning 6 of those and hitting the frame on 9 other occasions.
She has shown a clear preference for decent ground, which she will get tomorrow, but the big worry has to be the 2m trip. Her last 3 victories have come at trips ranging from 19f to 21f and she hasn’t had a run over 2m since a handicap win off 112 back in March 2014. I’m not sure this test will suit and she looks a bit skinny at odds of 7/2, even if she is receiving weight from her main rivals.
PASS THE TIME N MULHOLLAND/M QUINLAN
This 7yo daughter of Passing Glance has been a great servant to connections. She has had 37 runs under rules, both on the flat and over timber, and she has managed to win 8 times, including 5 hurdle races. Her last win came in a class 3 handicap off 126 (16f good to soft) at Ludlow and she is a previous course and distance winner, another handicap off 123. She was 2nd behind Intense Tango in this race last year but she is far better off at the weights this time around.
She was pulled up behind Lily Waugh on her last hurdles start at Cheltenham, but the 20f trip and soft ground were clearly to blame and she showed she is in good form for this with a close 2nd on the all-weather at Wolves at the start of this month. The ground will suit tomorrow and she likes the track, but this looks a stronger heat than last year and she will do well to make the frame again at her current odds of 10/1.
This is a competitive looking race and as has been illustrated above there are a host of horses with realistic claims. Morning Run will likely go off a short priced favourite and if she can bounce back from her last run she could be hard to peg back. However, she won’t get an easy lead with Smart Talk in the field and they could end up cutting each other’s throats up front. The likely strong pace could suit Rock On The Moor but it is hard to forget how impressive Intense Tango was when landing this prize last season, and with the ground drying out all the time she is the selection at odds of 7/1.
INTENSE TANGO 7/1
ROCK ON THE MOOR 9/2